Not fit for purpose - NGOs present Fitness Check of the Common Agricultural Policy


BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), and NABU, German BirdLife/EEB partner, will today present an evidence-based Fitness Check assessment of the CAP at a workshop [1] in Brussels. The independent study, for which the authors assessed 450 peer reviewed scientific papers, entitled [2] Is the CAP fit for purpose? was commissioned by the above mentioned NGOs and carried out by a respected team of experts in agro-economy, ecology and sociology following the European Commission’s own “better regulation” methodology. The results of the study show clearly that the current CAP, accounting for almost 40% of the EU budget (almost 60 billion EUR per year), is not fit for purpose.


The key results from the study show that:

- From a socio-economic and environmental perspective the CAP delivers only partially or negatively on the 5 key fitness check questions: efficiency, effectiveness, coherence, EU added value and relevance.

- Direct Payments as income support receive the largest budget allocation without sufficient justification or clear links to CAP objectives.

- The environmental engagement of the CAP is insufficient to halt environmental degradation, nor reduce the dramatic decline of biodiversity, provides inadequate ecosystem services in the EU, and fails completely to satisfactorily address the challenges of climate change.

- The CAP does not adequately address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the current structure will not deliver for the SDGs in the future.


The European Commission itself has failed to follow its own better regulation rules and has not undertaken a Fitness Check of the CAP despite several calls from civil society and elements of the business community to do so (for example the participants of the Living Land [3] campaign). A Fitness Check of the CAP has also been formally requested by the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) platform, a key European Commission advisory group made up of representatives from business, social partners and civil society.


Lead author of the study, Dr. Guy Pe’er, iDiv research centre, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and Leipzig University said: “With 60 years under our belts, an overwhelming richness of knowledge and experience has accumulated, especially on how production and environmental protection can be combined. But under current CAP design, this cannot be achieved. Our assessment shows that the CAP contains some useful instruments, but it suffers from an inflation in objectives and instruments, some of which conflict with each other. It is therefore not surprising that the outcomes are mixed at best. Our results for efficiency, internal coherence and relevance were quite alarming, and when examined from a sustainability perspective and the SDGs, all in all, our assessment shows that the CAP cannot deliver. A coherent set of objectives, structured around sustainability generally – social, economic, and environmental – may prove more effective and efficient, and likely will bring also higher acceptance both by farmers and the broader public.”


Dr. Sebastian Lakner, Research Associate at the Chair for Agricultural Policy Department for Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Goettingen, author of the study, said: “The CAP of 2017 is not fit for purpose. The largest part of the CAP are the direct payments. The EU Commission has failed to justify this huge spend of taxpayers’ money with a reasonable argument. And consequently, reliable indicators and statistics to evaluate this policy are still missing. The 2017 direct payments still produce misallocations and inconsistencies. And Greening is a bureaucratic failure with disappointing impact. The EU Commission has done a fairly good job in reforming the most distorting market policies in the last 25 years. Now it’s time to face the new challenges.  From my perspective we must 1) help with the transformation to a more sustainable way of farming, 2) stop the loss of biodiversity and 3) cope with the huge challenge of climate change. To achieve progress on these challenges, the EU Commission has to introduce an ambitious reform proposal. This all requires ambitious CAP reform!”  

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Policy Manager for Agriculture & Bioenergy, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said: “The upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be based on a proper assessment of the impact of subsidies. Without such an evidence-based approach it will be impossible for the Commission to justify continuing to pour such huge amounts of EU taxpayers' money into the CAP. We hope the Commission takes this research into account in its own assessment of the policy and concludes that to support farmers’ shift to sustainable farming it is essential to move away from funding harmful activities through perverse payments.”


Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia said: “Next week the European Commission is expected to publish its Communication on the future of the CAP. We hope that this study will serve as a wake-up call for the Commission – the CAP is outdated and not fit for the 21st century. It has to be radically reformed into a new European Food and Land-Use Policy that can meet today’s challenges and deliver on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” 

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), NABU, CAP, Fitness Check